Leafs rookies trending towards elite company

Leafs rookies trending towards elite company
By Evan Presement

Anyone who follows hockey knows that the Toronto Maple Leafs have assembled some of the best young talent the NHL has seen in quite some time.

Mitch Marner, Auston Matthews, and William Nylander rank first, second, and fifth, respectively, in rookie scoring. Impressive, sure, but just how impressive is it? Well, if they continue to score at their current pace, they would be regarded as one of the best single-team rookie groups the NHL has ever seen.

Here’s how ‘the big three’ have performed this season, and what they’re on pace to do for the year:

 

NAME GAMES PLAYED GOALS ASSISTS POINTS PROJ. POINTS
NYLANDER 20 6 9 15 60.75
MATTHEWS 21 9 8 17 66.4
MARNER 21 7 11 18 70.3
**Nylander on pace for 61.5 points over 82 game season**

Impressive, right? All three are projected to hit at least 60 points and had Matthews not gone on an insanely unsustainable dry-spell, he’d be on pace for well over 70 points. I could go on and on about each player, and how they’ve impressed me so far this season (which I’ll do in my next post). Instead, I’ll show you how incredibly rare it is for a team to have this type of rookie talent on the same team.

In NHL history, only 20 times has a team had 2 rookies who have scored at least 50 points in the same season. Here’s the list:

Note: Players in bold/italics accomplished 50+ points for the same team in 1979, the same year as the NHL-WHA merger.

GLEN SHARPLEY, ROLAND ERIKSSON (1976, North Stars)
STEFAN PERSSON, MIKE BOSSY (1977, Islanders)
ULF NILSSON, ANDERS HEDBERG (1978, Rangers)
RICH PRESTON, TERRY RUSKOWSKI (1979, Blackhawks)
BRETT CALLIGHEN, BLAIR MACDONALD, WAYNE GRETZKY (1979, Oilers)
JORDY DOUGLAS, MARK HOWE, MIKE RODGERS (1979, Whalers)
BENGT-AKE GUSTAFSSON, MIKE GARTNER (1979, Capitals)
REAL CLOUTIER, MICHEL GOULET (1979, Nordiques)
RON WILSON, PETER SULLIVAN, MORRIS LUKOWICH (1979, Jets)
JARI KURRI, GLENN ANDERSON (1980, Oilers)
PETER STASTNY, ANTON STASTNY, DALE HUNTER (1980, Nordiques)
MARK PAVELICH, REIJO RUOTSALAINEN (1981, Rangers)
BOB CARPENTER, CHRIS VALENTINE (1981, Capitals)
DAN QUINN, HAKAN LOOB (1983, Flames)
JIMMY CARSON, LUC ROBITAILLE (1986, Kings)
TONY AMONTE, SERGEI NEMCHINOV (1991, Rangers)
ALEXEI ZHAMNOV, TEEMU SELANNE (1992, Jets)
ALEXANDER DAIGLE, ALEXEI YASHIN (1993, Senators)
DANNY HEATLEY, ILYA KOVALCHUK (2001, Thrashers)
JONATHAN TOEWS, PATRICK KANE (2007, Blackhawks)

A few observations…

It’s pretty impressive that this has only happened 20 times in NHL history, and the Rangers, Blackhawks, Oilers, Capitals, Nordiques, and Jets have accounted for 13 of those times. Also, it’s only happened five times since 1990, and only twice since 1995. Furthermore, only twice have three rookies scored 50+ points for the same team in the same season, and that was Gretzky, Callighen, and MacDonald for Edmonton in 1979, and Peter and Anton Stastny, along with Dale Hunter for the Jets a year later in 1980.

Of course, we’re only a quarter of the way through the 2016/17 season, but if the numbers hold, this will be the first time since 1980 that an NHL team has had three rookies hit at least 50 points each.

Let’s go a step further.

Here’s the list of at least 2 rookie teammates who have scored at least 60 points in the same season. It’s happened nine times:

ULF NILSSON, ANDERS HEDBERG (1978, Rangers)
BLAIR MACDONALD, WAYNE GRETZKY (1979, Oilers)
RICH PRESTON, TERRY RUSKOWSKI (1979, Blackhawks)
MARK HOWE, MIKE RODGERS (1979, Whalers)
BENGT-AKE GUSTAFSSON, MIKE GARTNER (1979, Capitals)
PETER STASTNY, ANTON STASTNY, DALE HUNTER (1980, Nordiques)
BOB CARPENTER, CHRIS VALENTINE (1981, Capitals)
JIMMY CARSON, LUC ROBITAILLE (1986, Kings)
ALEXEI ZHAMNOV, TEEMU SELANNE (1992, Jets)

Again, we see here that nearly half of these seasons came in 1979, which has to be taken with a grain of salt. Also, only one trio of rookies have ever hit at least 60 points, and that was Dale Hunter, along with Peter and Anton Stastny in 1980. If Matthews, Nylander, and Marner can pull this off, it will be the first time the NHL has seen it happen in nearly 40 years, and only the second time ever.

Now, since Marner’s on pace for 70+ points and Matthews isn’t far behind, let’s go a step further.

Here’s the list of at least 2 rookie teammates who have scored at least 70 points in the same season. It’s happened five times:

BLAIR MACDONALD, WAYNE GRETZKY (1979, Oilers)
MARK HOWE, MIKE RODGERS (1979, Whalers)
PETER STASTNY, ANTON STASTNY (1980, Nordiques)
JIMMY CARSON, LUC ROBITAILLE (1986, Kings)
ALEXEI ZHAMNOV, TEEMU SELANNE (1992, Jets)

You can see that no trio of rookies has ever hit the 70-point mark, even in the high-flying, high scoring days of the 1970’s and 80’s. Of course, the likelihood of all three of Toronto’s rookies hitting the 70-point mark is extremely unlikely, but not at all out of the question. The likelihood of two Toronto rookies (Marner and Matthews) hitting the 70 point mark is much more reasonable, and maybe even somewhat expected at this point.

Now, just for fun, let’s go through the rest of the greatest rookie duos of all time.

Here’s the list of at least 2 rookie teammates who have scored at least 80 points in the same season. It’s happened three times:

BLAIR MACDONALD, WAYNE GRETZKY (1979, Oilers)
MARK HOWE, MIKE RODGERS (1979, Whalers)
PETER STASTNY, ANTON STASTNY (1980, Nordiques)

And, finally…

Here’s the list of at least 2 rookie teammates who have scored at least 90 points in the same season. It’s happened one time:

BLAIR MACDONALD, WAYNE GRETZKY (1979, Oilers)

There it is, the greatest rookie duo of all time. The great Blair MacDonald, along with that Gretzky fellow. In 1979, Gretzky scored 137 points, while MacDonald notched 94. If you adjust for era, Gretzky ONLY scored 117 points, while MacDonald notched 79. Still, an unbelievable feat (even though MacDonald was a 26-year-old rookie)

Anyways, the point here is that the Toronto Maple Leafs’ trio of rookies have an opportunity to do something extremely special. Even if they don’t complete the task, though, the future for these three players, and the team, is as bright as ever.

 

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One thought on “Leafs rookies trending towards elite company

  1. Adding to the special-ness of Toronto’s trio of rookies is the fact that the duo of MacDonald and Gretzky were both ineligible for the Calder Trophy due to their experience in the WHA prior to the merger, so they technically weren’t even “rookies” by that measure.

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